Carlos Rodon’s return to the mound cleared a major hurdle this week as he was cleared to begin throwing. That’s a mighty positive development for a guy the White Sox believe can still dominate at the front of their starting rotation.
As for when he’ll be back, though? Yeah, still no answer on that one.
General manager Rick Hahn stuck to his initial outlook for Rodon when the right-hander had shoulder surgery back in September, saying Rodon could be ready to go by Opening Day or might again have to sit out until June.
But Hahn also made a pretty good point while addressing the media before the start of SoxFest festivities Friday at the Hilton Chicago: In the master plan, does it really matter if Rodon makes a few more starts in 2018 compared to a full season in 2019 and 2020 and beyond?
“He passed the follow-up. He hit every milestone they were looking for,” Hahn said. “We’re going through this process as cautiously as we need to be. We’ve got enough depth in the rotation that we can take whatever time Carlos needs to be right. If he winds up being ready at the early part of that window, fantastic. If it takes the full eight months, that’s fine, too. This is about the long term. This isn’t about getting Carlos back for an extra two, three starts. This is about putting him in the best position for the next four years.”
In the short term it does seem to matter. There are legitimate questions surrounding Rodon and his ability to stay on the field as he looks at a potential second consecutive season of waiting months to get going. And obviously the more he’s on the field, the more he can develop, important for a young player yet to reach his full potential.
But the rebuilding White Sox are blessed with time. The entire point of Hahn’s rebuild is to build a team that will perennially contend far into the future. So let Rodon take the time and get right.
That’s easier said than done for Rodon, though, who described just how crummy it felt to sit and watch the White Sox on TV while he was hurt a season ago.
“You learn a lot, a lot about yourself,” Rodon said. “You overcome some adversity, and I’ve learned how to deal with that. There are tough days and some good days. And when you are sitting down in Phoenix and your team is playing, it’s not always easy watching them on TV when you are sitting there on the couch and just looking at yourself like, ‘This really sucks.’”
He said that last bit while looking at his shoulder.
It’s obvious that Rodon wants to get back as soon as possible.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I really want to be like, ‘Hey, I’m going to be back on this day,’ but I really don’t know. If I knew, I probably wouldn’t tell you, but I’ll flat-out tell you I don’t know. I’m going to start throwing and the guys are going to put some stuff together for a throwing program. Like I said, it’s going to take a little but I’ll be back this season.”
But he gets the big-picture approach that Hahn talked about, too.
“It’s the long term. It’s the long term. Miss a month now and you gain a year later. You can look at it that way.”
Rodon expressed that he has a more positive outlook now than he did during last season's struggles. In keeping with the theme of the rebuild, he was happy to have a plan in place and something to look forward to at the end of the tunnel, something exciting.
“Everything is going well. That’s why I’m excited. I wish I could say when I’m going to be back or I’m going to be back sooner or I’m ready to go. Just start throwing and now we will really see what happens.
“I was a little down last year. You start throwing and it was really not feeling too good. Now I haven’t throwing but I’ve been throwing weighted balls against the wall, and I know that when I pick up the first ball Monday to throw I’m going to be fine.”